Tues., March 29

Chico State Women’s Center puts together eclectic mix of hip-hop and activism

PDX IN THE HOUSE Portland’s Lifesavas (from left, MCs Jumbo the Garbageman and Vursatyl) at Chico State’s BMU Auditorium

PDX IN THE HOUSE Portland’s Lifesavas (from left, MCs Jumbo the Garbageman and Vursatyl) at Chico State’s BMU Auditorium

Photo By Tom Angel

Breaking the SilenceFeaturing the Lifesavas and the DialecsBMU Auditorium

Giddy over the prospective intermingling of two of my favorite things, I arrived fashionably early for last week’s Breaking the Silence event. A hip-hop concert sponsored by the Chico State Women’s Center seemed a truly inspired idea.

At the scheduled start time the BMU was in a state of disarray, as various organizations were setting up informational tables along the perimeter of the auditorium. I left for a Chico minute and returned more than an hour later to a small but transfixed crowd listening to a student’s poem of female empowerment. “You go sister,” I thought, not quite ready to break the silence myself.

The microphone was then given over to the founder of our local Stonewall Alliance, who somberly spoke about the troubling acts of hatred commonly committed against gays and lesbians in our community.

Local DJ Gregory Hinz was given the task of shifting gears. He livened up the crowd as well as his fingers by scratching over some classic hip-hop breaks. Soon his group, the Dialecs, took the stage, prompting the crowd to its collective feet. The group’s rappers moved high speed through their repertoire of heady hip-hop. Hinz’s scratching was hopelessly lost in the mix, but the rappers prevailed. Polysyllabic rhymes echoed through the large, dark room. The three rappers paced through the colored stage lights with a mature presence and strong group dynamic.

After the Dialecs finished, the silence returned momentarily while poets prepared. Fresh off a victory against Cal, Stanford and UCSC in a slam poetry competition, three members of Chico’s Youth Slam Poetry team took the stage. The first poem roared—a passionate diatribe against the mistreatment of women ending with the three teenage boys proclaiming, “This is what a feminist looks like.” I remained captivated while several other poets performed.

Despite the long drive from Portland, the Lifesavas were not visibly fazed by the small turnout. D.J. Rev. Shines, along with MCs Vursatyl and Jumbo the Garbageman, were committed to breaking the silence once and for all.

The three men demanded help from the crowd. Folks seemed eager for the cathartic release after passively ingesting the night’s highly charged poets and lecturers. The volume rose and the floor began to shake a little.

Vursatyl proved worthy of his name, effortlessly switching cadences and catching his breath without missing a beat. Not to be outdone, Jumbo showed his freestyle skills with an improvised rap about Chico. With great reverence the two incorporated bits and pieces from hip-hop mentors such as Main Source and the Crash Crew throughout the set. The evening ended with the Lifesavas’ antiwar song, “Resist.” People were unified by the rhythm, bobbing up and down with hands pointing toward the sky and singing together with voices raised. A fitting end to the event.